Brief: Onetime district attorney ignored warnings

Dec. 11, 2012 @ 08:37 PM

Tracey Cline ignored the warnings of two judges who told her to stick to the facts when writing motions, according to an answer to Cline’s appeal of her removal as district attorney of Durham County. 

The brief, submitted by attorney Burton Craige, was filed Monday with the N.C. Court of Appeals and was an answer to Cline‘s appeal in which she claimed that her First Amendment rights were violated, that her due process rights were violated, and that the statute used to remove her from office was constitutionally vague.

On Jan. 18, Durham attorney Kerry Sutton filed an affidavit in Durham County Superior Court requesting an inquiry into removing Cline from office.

Sutton’s affidavit was filed after Cline had written motions accusing Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson of willful misconduct, of being dishonest and corrupt, along with a number of things, including saying he had the reprobate mind of a monarch and that his conduct would rot the justice system to the core.

Cline claimed Hudson was purposefully ruling against her in cases because he became angry with her when she would not cooperate with him on another case.

After a hearing in February, Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood entered a court order removing Cline from office, saying her actions were prejudicial to the administration of justice and that she had brought the Durham County District Attorney’s office into disrepute when she wrote the inflammatory motions about Hudson.

Superior Court Judges Carl Fox and James Hardin, who had both served as district attorneys before becoming judges, warned Cline that she should not make unsubstantiated and false statements in motions or affidavits about Hudson or other matters, the brief stated.

“Cline’s motions, totaling over 500 pages of wild and unsubstantiated accusations, lack any factual support for the attacks on Judge Hudson’s character, conduct and fitness to be a judge,” the brief stated.

“Cline continued to repeat these accusations after Judge Fox found the factual support for her motions to be ‘woefully inadequate,’ and after both Judge Fox and Judge Hardin explicitly warned and admonished her about filing pleadings with false statements,” the brief stated.

Instead of filing the motions against Hudson, Cline, who had filed a complaint with the Judicial Standards Commission about Hudson, should have waited on its decision, the brief stated.

The brief also argued that Cline received due process and that the statute used to remove her was not constitutionally vague.

“Cline’s calculated assault on Judge Hudson over a period of seven weeks is more detrimental to the justice system than a district attorney’s utterance of a racial epithet in a singled heated exchange in a bar, which the Supreme Court found to be sufficient grounds for removal [in another case],” the brief stated. 

The hearing also did not violate Cline’s constitutional rights because she was given notice of the charges against her and had full opportunity to contest the charges, the brief stated.

The decision to remove her from office also did not violate her First Amendment rights because “Cline’s malicious accusations against Judge Hudson were false and made with reckless disregard of the truth,” and “they are not protected by the First Amendment,” the brief stated.

The Court of Appeals will consider Cline’s appeal and the brief in response to it before ruling. Cline is seeking to have her removal overturned or to have another hearing on the matter.